I never did this in the past, but the information is so important that I decided to just repost it with full credit to the author so more women, and more birth professionals could be reached and take this information into consideration when welcoming babies into the world! For more detail on the anatomy and function of the limbic system check out this link.
Here is my first “guest post”!
The Limbic Imprint
Our first experiences in the world affect us in profound ways. How can we best make our child’s first experience as joyous and loving as possible?
A new baby is an extremely sensitive being—in fact, more sensitive than he or she will ever be during adult life. Yet despite that sensitivity, we don’t cognitively remember our birth experiences. Nonetheless, for better or worse, those early impressions stay with us for the rest of our lives. Twenty-five years of thorough research in the field of prenatal psychology shows a direct correlation between the circumstances of our birth and the subconscious behavioral and emotional patterns in our adult lives. We are very familiar with establishing the basic settings in our TVs, cameras and other devices. Imagine setting the tint of your television to maximum green. No matter what appears on the screen, everything will have a greenish cast. Similarly, if the brightness is set on dim, your screen will show an unusually dark picture. A similar mechanism is at work in our brains. This mechanism, called a limbic imprint, has been deliberately used for thousands of years to train animals, everything from dogs and horses to elephants and circus bears. For example, baby elephants are routinely chained to a small stake in the ground early in life. The elephant rages against the stake with all his might for a few days, until he finally stops. When he grows up and has enough strength to pull this stick right out, he doesn’t ever try.
How a Limbic Imprint Forms
To better understand the limbic imprint, we need to understand the basic structure of our brain. At the tip of the spinal cord there is a segment called the brain stem (sometimes called the reptilian brain), responsible purely for the physiological functions of the body. Even when other parts of the brain are unresponsive, such as in the case of a coma, the brain stem ensures that the basic physiology of the body is still functioning. A comatose person’s lungs and heart still function. Women in a coma continue to menstruate, and pregnancies continue to gestate.
The exterior of the brain is called the cerebral cortex, and it is responsible for our mental activity. Sometimes referred to as the “gray matter,” it’s what we usually think of as the brain—the part that’s responsible for our cognitive functions, such as logic, memory and calculations.
Within the cerebral cortex is the cerebrum, which is divided into five lobes. The innermost of these is the limbic lobe, which is responsible for our emotions, sensations and feelings. The limbic lobe is not directly connected with the cortex. During gestation, birth and early childhood, the limbic system registers all of our sensations and feelings, but cannot translate them into memory, because the cortex hasn’t developed yet. Nonetheless, the echo of these sensations lives in the body throughout the rest of our lives, whether we realize it or not.
We come into this world wide-open to receiving love. When we do receive it, as our first primal experience, our nervous system is limbically imprinted—programmed—with an undeniable rightness of being. Being held in our mother’s loving arms and feeding from her breast provides us with a natural sense of bliss and security; it sets the world as the right place for us to be.
If our first impressions of being in the body are anything less than loving (for example, painful, frightening or lonely), then those impressions will imprint as our valid experience of love. It will be immediately coded into our nervous system as a comfort zone, acting as a surrogate for love and nurturing, regardless of how undesirable the experience actually was.
The Effects of the Limbic Imprint
As adults, we unconsciously, automatically recreate the conditions that were imprinted at birth and through early childhood. Research conducted by the pioneers of prenatal psychology, such as doctors Thomas Verny, David Chamberlain and William Emerson, shows that an overwhelming amount of physical conditions and behavioral disorders are the direct result of traumatic gestational experiences during pregnancy and complications during delivery. These can include sensory overload, unnecessary mechanical interventions, chemical stimulation, elective cesareans, circumcision, separation from mother right after birth, lack of breastfeeding and more.
Beyond the devastating effect of trauma during the actual birth, what happens afterward is also a source of trouble. These problems aren’t out of the ordinary; they’re a matter of routine impersonal postpartum hospital care. Lack of immediate warm, soft and nurturing contact with the mother, immediate cutting of the cord, rude handling, needles, bright lights, startling noises… all of this becomes instantly wired into a newborn’s nervous system as the new comfort zone. As the child grows, he’ll continue to unconsciously recreate and attract the same repeated situations of suffering, pain and helplessness, or else become abusive. Even if his rational mind later accurately recognizes this as a pattern of abuse, the imprinting will have already happened in a different part of the brain.
According to a 1995 study by Dr. William Emerson, 95 percent of all births in the United States can be classified as traumatic. Fifty percent were rated as “moderate” trauma, and 45 percent as “severe.” This problem affects all of us.
Born into excruciating labor pains or into the numbness and toxicity of anesthesia, we are limbically imprinted for suffering or numbness. Traumatic birth strips us of our power and impairs our capacity to love, trust, be intimate and experience our true potential. Addictions, poor problem-solving skills, low self-esteem and an inability to be compassionate or responsible have all been linked to birth trauma.
Breaking the Pattern Normally, a woman gives birth the way she herself was born. Due to limbic imprinting, that’s simply the way her body knows how to procreate. If she was born with complications, in all likelihood her body will repeat them. Unless she consciously alters that limbic memory, she will hand down her own birth trauma to her daughter, as she herself received it from her mother.
Giving birth for the first time is a huge opportunity for healing. So much can be done to prepare for a graceful, dignified delivery! How we experience life is greatly determined by our limbic imprint. It affects our likes and dislikes, our vocational and marital choices, what we find attractive and what repels us. We owe it to our children to provide a gentle arrival for them into our world, and learn to give birth without suffering.
In order to give birth to an enlightened masterpiece—whether it takes the form of a human baby, a beautiful poem, a healthy garden or simply a rich, fulfilling day that was worth living—we must first heal our own birth trauma. Despite the powerful force of limbic imprinting, healing is possible. There are many ways to recover our sense of well-being. We must recognize that, however harsh our beginnings, as adults we can change our basic settings, reprogram our limbic imprint and transmute our suffering and helplessness during birth into the love and joy of being alive on this planet.
I invite you to envision the possibilities that would open up for humankind if women fully claimed the original capacity of all mammals to give birth and raise our young without trauma. We can improve the quality of our species in just one generation by letting our children enter this world without being programmed for suffering and pain, instead bringing them into a world of safety, compassion and common sense. We cannot thrive as a species unless we create a new generation that was not damaged in utero by a high level of stress hormones in their mother’s bloodstream or by unnecessary physical and emotional traumas. As Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
When the consciousness of birth shifts from anxiety and fear to love and safety, then we will truly have a chance to reach our greatest potential. We can regain our authentic power, clear the pain of our ancestors from our system, and set the stage for our children to step into their lives as peaceful, empowered guardians of Earth.
About the Author:
Elena Tonetti-Vladimirova is the founder of Birth into Being, an international movement for conscious procreation founded in 1982. She produced and directed the 2006 documentary, Birth as We Know It. She travels the world teaching her seminars, conducting apprenticeship trainings and speaking at conferences. For more information, visit www.BirthIntoBeing.com
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #25.
View Article References
View Author Bio
To purchase this issue, Order Here.
Pathways is published by The International Chiropractic Pediatric Association in collaboration with The Alliance for Holistic Family Health and Wellness and Families for Conscious Living.
Part 2: When trauma has “settled” (sometimes for years): Tips to release and shift the impact of a traumatic birth.
“You must learn to end the wars in your world by ending them in your minds.”
~ Barbara Marciniak
The turmoil of pain and anger, the disappointment and deep hurt a woman faces from her experience of giving birth often feel like a long lasting inner battle. And, contrary to popular belief, time (alone) DOES NOT heal all things! When the negative emotions have been buried deep within to allow you to survive in your new life, with a new role and complete the tasks of motherhood and what we call “normal life”, it becomes your new identity. In other words, it’s part of who you are. There is no judgement on my part and neither should you condemn yourself, it is an automatic survival response.But the fact is that the longer this goes on -let’s call it “the survival mode”- the more you identify with your emotional wounds, the more “work” it takes to shift out of that now familiar pattern. BUT it can be done, and we have many resources to help you do just that!
If you can, it is especially motivating to start your healing journey before the birth of your next child (preferably even before becoming pregnant again). It will benefit you (resetting the emotional stage), but also for your unborn child, your relationship to your spouse ( yes, you know the one that is in love with you but doesn’t know you anymore??!!) and it will help your child too, the one born in that previous traumatic experience. Everyone wins!
If you are ready to start, here are a few tips for you:
Tip#1: Recognize that you are ready to change
One important thing to know is that YOU and only YOU can decide when you are ready to heal! It’s not as much a rational decision as a “whole being” awareness followed by the willingness to change. Maybe, you will realize how tired of your gloomy state of mind you are? Or perhaps it will be a sudden realization that you do have the power to change how you feel? You will know when you are ready and it will then be natural to seek and try new approaches. Be patient… Be kind to yourself. When that day comes, here are a few great processes that can help you.
Tip #2: Physical pampering soothe the souls and prepares you for further work
Allowing yourself the time and means to pamper your body like with a spa day with a friend, a nice full body massage, or even a long, quiet bubble bath will start setting your brain and body in gear for a “me” time. It is quite difficult to relax or take time for yourself when you are upset with yourself or feel guilty or not deserving. It may take a few attempts before you really let go your “guard” and fully accept the pleasantness of the physical comfort, and that is very common and natural. again, be patient with yourself, you have been wounded!
Tip #3: Repeating positive affirmations
Words are powerful and do cary a certain energy even when they are spoken only in the privacy of your mind. the way you talk to yourself absolutely influences the way you feel. And the way you feel determines your reality. So to change your day-to-day reality, you can take that one step of changing the way you talk to yourself by using short, positive affirmations. (more info on affirmations).
Tip #4: From now on, avoid telling your story over and over to anyone who does (or doesn’t) want to hear it!
Even if it may have felt like a relief at first, repeating your story over and over is not such a help anymore. In fact, you probably noticed by now that each time you do tell your story, it stirs your inside up and around and all the unpleasant, painful emotions come back running to the surface like it happened yesterday! Am I right or am I right? What good does that do? None, believe me! Telling the story reactivates negative emotions. remember in your mind, there is no difference between experience it now and reliving it. The emotions are as intense if not more. Not such a good idea!
Carolyn Myss talked in her earlier work in the 1990s about “woundology”, a term she coined to describe when people -victims of abuse or people with emotional or physical trauma- have the compulsion to tell their story over and over because it has become part of who they are. They exist (perhaps only) through that status of “victim”. It is just more difficult to heal from the trauma when it has become part of your identity. So stop telling your ‘victim” story!
Yes you did had the right to scream it to the world (and it was atrocious, what happened to you) but it does not do you any good anymore… Not to you, not to your loved ones or anyone around you, not to your child who picks up the energy of how you feel (want it or not). If you really want to start healing, you need to let it go…
Tip #5: When you do tell your story, make sure to detach yourself from the event.
This may require some assistance and preparation. EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) or “tapping” (2 different names, same technique) is very simple, easy to learn and so efficient in shifting the emotions from negative to neutral. I can teach you in an hour or less… And I do teach it in the “Gentle Birth Guardian” 5-day, level-1 training for birth professionals I teach with Barbara Harper. After using this “emotional reset” technique, it becomes easy to tell your story WITHOUT the emotional charge that use to be attached to it. It is NOT denial or burying your head in the sand and pretend it never happened, it truly discharges the negative emotional imprint from your cellular structure and rewires your limbic brain. It shifts your emotional memory so that when you choose to tell your story for example to a close friend or a therapist, it is now as if you were a neutral observer, a reporter who knows the facts and describes the details without the emotional trauma attached to it (or that used to be attached to it). By then, there is a great chance that you will have no interest in telling it anymore, which is a good sign of healing.
Tip #6: At least once, tell your birth story the way you wanted it to happen.
Don’t get all upset just yet, please hear me out… This is an important step to heal your relationship to your young child. No matter how much time as passed since her birth, she could be a few months old or he could be a few years old, there are 2 things to know about your child and the traumatic birth you BOTH went through:
1) He/she was there too (even if the higher functions of the brain are not entirely developed, the emotional imprint is very profound (Read the “Emotional Imprint in a Newborn Child” blog, next week). There is a part of him/her that was hurt too.
2) Every child lives in a state of heightened awareness and receptivity up to 6-7 year old. That means he is very programmable (good and bad) and that receptive mind is on even when he sleeps (same as in adults). When your baby sleep, his “Higher Self”, his “Spirit” or “Soul” if you would is listening and understands everything you say.
So, you can talk to the “higher” consciousness of your child when he/she is asleep and talk as you would to an adult, dear friend, explaining that the hurtful, messed up, real story (that you can briefly describe) is NOT what you wanted for both of you. Say something like: ”This is what I really wanted for you and me,…”, or “I want to tell you what my dream birth was for you and me…” And go on describing in much detail what your vision of your ideal birth was… With emphases on your feelings. For example: “And I wanted to receive you in my own hands and gently bring you on my chest to keep you warm and …so on.
Of course, you realize that to do this exercise in a calm and positive way, you will have to have done tip #4 and 5.
I hope you decide to take this healing journey now… or sometime in the future! Because Life deserved to be lived (not survived)!
I am fully aware that this isn’t an easy process. And it is a process, it takes time and patient and a lot of loving support. I am here to help. Especially if you are planning to get pregnant again soon or are already pregnant with another child, I do offer my services in private sessions in person and on skype. Contact me.
Furthermore… I am working on putting together a “Healing Emotional Trauma” workshop with my husband, Randall Winter. What I can tell you is that the kind of energetic, multidimensional reframing that happens in our private practice and seminars is absolutely phenomenal.
You can leave your questions in the “comment” box. If you want to stay anonymous I can do that, let me know. If you rather not have your comment published at all, I will absolutely respect you wish. Just specify your preferences in the text of the comment. They come to me for approval first!
Many (too many) of my clients at the beginning of my doula career said to me: “I did everything right: I took prenatal yoga classes, I learned hypnobirthing and I hired a doula, and I still had to go through this ordeal!” I felt so helpless at the time. Even with my multi-layered training as a yoga instructor, research scientist, doula, medical hypnotist, etc., I didn’t really know what to say to them. Many times, there is no rational explanation… You just end up with a wonderful newborn baby and a bunch of very mixed fealings and thoughts in your head: “I am so happy , yet so disappointed” or “I feel like my body failed me, and what did I do wrong, what did I miss?”
As a birth doula and medical hypnotist, I wanted to help. I looked around for more information (in conferences, books and conversations with colleagues in birth practices) and I realized that Traumatic Birth is more commonplace than I had thought. I could go on telling you some of my “horror” stories and dissecting the “what ifs and whys” but after I would be done with that intellectual exercise, you would end up with the same -or actually worse, re-activated- painful feeling in your stomach and uneasiness that “Trauma” leaves behind. So I am not going to do that here.
What I want to do is giving you some practical tips and things to do as soon as possible after your “bad” experience to avoid the deepest impact of birth trauma on you and your baby.
Part 1: In the immediate after birth: Tips to minimize the impact of a Traumatic Birth
Tip#1: Hold your baby skin-to-skin anytime you can
Especially if your baby was taken away right after birth, it is super important for his emotional well being and balance to reset the first impression of separation, distress and imprint of unreliability of the world around him. There are now many research studies showing the acceleration of physiological stabilization and neurological adaptation too when the baby is placed between his mothers breast, skin-to-skin. For more info on the impact of skin-to-skin practice on mom and baby read my previous article or watch Dr Nils Bergman’s video
Tip #2: Practice Self-attachment (Breastfeeding is a no-brainer).
Ideally, self-attachment would be offered after every birth of a healthy baby for a fast adjustment to life outside the womb. When there are interventions, delays, disappointments and separation at birth, it becomes crucial to attempt self-attachment as soon as possible but also in a comfortable private environment. This may not be possible until you are home with your newborn… But that’s ok! You and your baby can work on it up to 3 months after birth and still get benefits. Trust that it will still have a profound impact. And Dr Jack Newman, breastfeeding expert says that it helps establish breastfeeding if the baby has refused to take the breast otherwise.
So, here is one way to do it: At a time your baby is not too hungry (between feedings), get both of you bare skin and place your baby on your lower abdomen. Let him/her find your nipple and latch on without your help, just verbal encouragement, lots of patience and infinite love. The more traumatic the birth was, the longer it may take for your baby to succeed but don’t give up. This little practice is most powerful in rewiring the baby’s brain. By the way, even if you are not breastfeeding, practicing self-attachment has very positive effects on the neurological maturation of the baby.
Here is a short video where the birth setting is far from ideal BUT they did let the baby self-attach, skin-to-skin right after birth, which I am totally convince has the potential to erase most if not all the negative limbic imprints for that baby.
Tip #3: Use your imagination and make up a new story (updated 5/6/13, 11:55PM CT)
Let me be clear that I am not denying the veracity of what happened to you and if you feel unheard, it is important to find a good listener friend who will really hear your pain, ONCE! Then, if you really wish to move past the pain and disappointment, just for yourself (meaning in the privacy of your own mind), it is important to validate the rightfulness of your aspirations (being home birth or natural birth or whatever you were dreaming of as your ideal birth) and to focus on what makes you feel better (not what makes you feel like a failure), even a little bit better. Guided imagery is very helpful especially if you used it during pregnancy, but we all know what day dreaming is! Same thing! Remember that your body’s physiology responds equally to an imagined situation as it does to reality. Want proof? Right now, think of chocolate cake. Remember the most delicious experience you ever had when eating chocolate cake. Notice what happens in your mouth. Salivation increased? Now, think of a nice ripe plump lemon. Imagine now that you cut it in half, grab it and squeeze a few drops in your mouth. Notice the physical reaction in your mouth. My point is, that there is no cake and no lemon, yet the digestive juices are running in your mouth. In the same way, the memory of your traumatic birth, affects your stress hormones and mood and every function in your body. YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE in the way you feel by focusing and playing in your head the scenario that makes you feel good. I could even write it down then make a recording and listen to it as you fall asleep. Shifting the way you feel (even a little bit at a time) is the beginning of healing for you and your loved ones.
Tip #4: Avoid guilt. Replace with forgiveness and love of self
Perhaps the most difficult thing to do for you, moms (and dads) is to find it in your heart to let go of the guilt, self-blame and anger and start to accept the possibility that the unfolding of events leading to the birth of your child has nothing to do with who you are, how great a mother you are and how much you are going to love this little one. it doesn’t even have much to do with your physical body or genetic heritage… In my private practice, I guide my clients into a very profound “forgiveness” process after we use “tapping” (EFT) to shift the feelings and emotions.It is quite miraculous. Just know that forgiveness is really refusing to let the old emotions, hurt feelings and self-blame affect your present day-today life. It has nothing to do with condoning the behavior (if there was a third party involved), or helplessly accepting the facts. “Forgiving” is you deciding to no longer let the negative feelings rule your present life. It is very liberating. Let me know if you need help with that one. We can do it on skype.
It works miracles!
Here is a complementary video demonstrating how to use hands-and-knees in labor and birth.
Here is the link to the full article
Enter your own ideas, stories and comments to share.
Part 2: ALTERNATIVE (non-supine) BIRTH POSITIONS
Read Part 1: The worst (yet most used) positions HERE
My Top five birth positions (starting with the best of the best) and why:
1) Squatting in 24-32” deep warm water:
First, with your feet flat, heels on the ground (First pic), and then on your toes, while holding to the side of the pool (center pic) or with your back leaning against a partner. You may find it helpful to lean forward at some point and watch your baby come out (3d pic). Follow your instinct and do what feel right at the time.
- Squatting naturally helps opening the pelvic outlet and allows the baby to descend more easily and rapidly for birth.
- Squatting in deep enough water allows the lifting floatation effect (or buoyancy) that helps the baby find the perfect alignment into the pelvis.
- It is much less strenuous to hold a squat in the water than out. Unless you prepare yourself intensively during pregnancy and get up between contractions to allow normal blood circulation in your legs.
- Easy to move and “wiggle” around your baby. Alternating heels down (flat feet) and up on your toes helps the baby down the inner pelvic narrowest point and the outer pelvic outlet.
- Plenty of room for your tailbone to move outward, out of the baby’s way
2) Hands-and-Knees or “All Fours”
If water is not an option for you and you either, are having your first baby or, your previous child did not “slip out” without effort, or you expect a big(ger) baby this position is for you. Also, if you have pelvic or sacrum concerns (previous injuries or surgeries) you will really like hands-and-knees. Watch this video for hip and back pain relief on hands-and-knees.
- In this position, gravity pulls the heaviest part of your baby down, meaning the spine of the baby moves to the “skin” side of your belly rather than toward your spine which would make the baby “sunny-side up” and takes more effort for the baby and you.
- Relieves back pain from the weight of your baby or from posterior baby.
- It is easy to wiggle and move your hips with and around your baby and follow the natural movements of your body.
- It provides easy access to your back for “Lite Touch” or to your hips for compression (which I do not believe is helping, but that is another topic).
- This position releases extra pressure on the cord assuring adequate oxygen supply to the baby and strong heart beat during the birthing process. I have seen it work almost instantly with many of my clients.
- Accelerate the descent of the baby extraordinarily. I was an eye-witness to this process repeatedly. Read Nichole story, it took only 30 min, and 3-5 contractions to move from 5 cm dilation to birth.
- Bigger babies are born gently and without need for instrument when the mother is allowed to stay in this position for birth. I have seen a 10 lb baby born from a 110 lb mother with no tear whatsoever in this position. (The pushing was gentle, mother directed, with little or no breath holding).
3) Side lying
In the side lying position, the mother rests on one side, with the top leg up resting on 2 or 3 pillows (so her knees are open at least as wide as her hips are or more) see pics 1 & 2 bellow). Toward the end of the pushing phase (stage 2), the partner can hold that leg up or mom can bent her knee and hold it up with her foot in the air (3d pic).
- Easy to achieve and maintain deeper relaxation, especially between contractions and therefore increases her comfort level. .
- The mother needs less muscular effort, which helps her save energy, limits fatigue and helps prevent exhaustion
- If you know this phase goes really fast for you, the side lying may slow down the descent of the baby a bit and give you more control, and avoid or minimize tearing.
- By decreasing pressure from the uterus, colon and other internal organs on the cord, it prevents eventual oxygen deprivation and lower heartbeat to the baby as he moves down the birth “canal”
- You can isolate the correct muscle groups to use for pushing and relax the buttocks (glut muscles) and perineum more effectively which allows more effective pushing all together.
- It’s a great way to avoid bed-splitting if you choose to birth in the hospital and avoid the use of the stir-ups (they have to remove the bottom part of the bed to access and unfold the stir-ups). See part 1 for more details about possible harm to you and your baby.
Ideally on a birthing stool or alternatively on the toilet (but that will be associated with some concern that the baby could fall in it). (I do not have a birthing chair and my pride stopped me from taking pictures sitting on the toilet, sorry! I know you all know what it feels like, no need to see what it looks like )
- Gravity will help move the baby down but hip movement and “wiggling” around the baby is limited.
- Allows for deep relaxation in between pushes especially when leaning on a partner or back against a high bed.
- May allow access to the bare back for lite touch massage
This position is best used earlier in labor but not so much, purposefully for birth unless using a very well designed birthing stools. I personally have never witness a woman asking to sit as she readies herself for birth. I have seen babies coming out (just the head) when mom was asking to use the toilet. Maybe the walking to it (rocking hips) plaid a part in that scenario?!
You may choose a standing position for birth if any contact with a bed or chair is uncomfortable or scary for you. You could stand and lean against your partner, like when slow dancing or you could lean against a wall (facing it or with your back to it- See pictures). You could also hold a squatting bar raised up, or like Native American use to do, hold on to a rope from the cealing. Your partner can also hold you in a supported semi-squat.
- Allows gravity to work for you and moves your baby down naturally
- Allow plenty of intuitive hip movements, kind of like in belly dancing or slow dancing
- If one partner holds the wrists when you face him and squat down half way, your back could be accessible to a second partner (doula) for Lite touch technique or hip squeeze if desired.
I hope this helps you open your mind to new possibilities and then, follow your own Inner Guidance and instinct (follow what feels right) has your baby moves down and out. it is like a dance! A beautiful divine, cosmic dance where the more freedom of movement and loving support is most important!
Share with us how it worked out for you! Here in the comments section or submit your birth story and a pic and we will add it to our collection!
P.S. Please, don’t post my pics on FB or anywhere else for that matter, just sent “your people” here by sharing the link as much as you want! Thanks!
You may also like to read and share: Part 1: The worst (yet most used) positions
Nichole was pregnant with her third child when she found me (and my pre-natal yoga class). She had decided to not take the epidural this time after a big disappointment with baby number 2. She was very excited about the hypnosis for childbirth I was teaching at the time. She said: “I began to feel the benefits immediately! I felt relief and a sense of peacefulness that helped me enjoy my pregnancy more.”
Nichole had an unusual emotional challenge during her pregnancy… She says: “During that time, the sessions with you became even more beneficial. Our sessions gave me the strength and acceptance to get past.”
During her previous births, Nichole’s labor had been induced past her due date and “breaking the bag of water” was an important “landmark” in shifting her body in what is called “active labor”. In other words… That intervention was determinant in “getting things going” and fast!
So I wasn’t surprise, knowing her circumstances, that this time too, she past her due date (due dates are not that accurate anyway!). Again that was an emotional challenge… and babies do not come when mummies are stressed… So we had an impromptu visit/session to help her find her clarity and her “center”.
She still was induced at 41 week and 3 days. Her cervix was 2-3 cm dilated so only Prostaglandin gel was used. I was there as her doula. Because she was at peace with the process, her contractions started just 20 min later and were strong and steady but when the nurse was asking her what her pain level was, she kept responding: “There really is no pain. Just pressure!” Later in a thank you letter she wrote to me Nichole said: “ As hokey as it sounds, it was true. I did not feel any pain. I felt the pressure of my uterus working and I let it do its job. It was amazing to feel so in control! I was on top of each contraction: they never got away from me like in my previous labors….”
When the doctor stopped by, about 3 ½ hours after the Prostaglandin gel, Nichole was dilated to a 5 (cm). She said: “I felt like I had made some progress, but when I heard that “You are 5 cm”, I couldn’t believe it. I remembered how I felt at 5 cm during the previous labors… This time, the mood in the room was still light and we were joking when he was breaking my water.” It was 12:08 PM.
She was still lying on her back right after the “checking the cervix” procedure, she felt the intensity of the next contraction … Much more “serious” as she said! As her husband and I helped her turn and get on her knees, leaning on the fitness ball, she had a couple more strong contractions. By the third one, she had the urge to push. I asked the nurse to check Nicholes’ cervix and sure enough, she was “complete” as we say in our birthing jargon. That means, the cervix is completely out of the way and the baby can start its descent to be born. This part is traditionally called “second stage” or “pushing”. What many women don’t know is that when in the right position (baby and mother) and in a calm, supportive environment, there is little or NO need to push and hold your breath. It is more of a relaxed opening and trusted surrender (which can be scary and challenging, especially the first time you really feel everything that is happening). So as she was “complete”, the nurse hurried to call the doctor.
Here is the birth in Nichole’s own words: “I remember thinking, that’s fine, you can call the doc, but this baby is coming now. I felt him moving down the birth canal. I felt everything, but I was never once in pain. It was awesome! I was so connected to the baby at that point. We were working together (him and me) to birth him! Amazing!…I knew it was going to happen right then and I said out loud: “I’m scared!” It was because it was happening so incredibly fast, I had to catch up in my mind and get “centered” again. Mike (my husband) began to talk to me about my special place and that gave me the space I needed to move away from that sudden burst of fear! I felt an urge to push, I was ready. The nurse wanted me to wait for the doctor but I couldn’t… I pushed twice and Jakes’ head was out. I actually saw it happen in the reflection in the window: that was pretty neat! One more push and he was out. I felt his movements as he landed on the foot of the bed although he did not make a sound (I was still leaning on the ball, in a hands-and-knee position). Mike reassured me that he was fine.”
It was about 12:40Pm, a mere 30 minutes after breaking the bag of water (at 5 cm dilation)!
Lola was born a few years later, at home, in the bathroom… Nichole didn’t make it to the hospital… Mom and baby were great!
Lola has 3 big brothers to look after her.
Submit your own birth story HERE
Part 1: The worst (yet most used) positions.
With the “medicalization” of childbirth, today in the US, 57% of women giving birth vaginally use the lithotomy position during the second stage of labor (pushing) . According to the medical dictionary, Lithotomy position is “a position in which the patient is on their back with the hips and knees flexed and the thighs apart”. The position is often used for vaginal examinations and childbirth. But “Lithotomy” means surgical removal of stones (usually from the duct of an organ) (litho (in Greek)=stone). So this lying on your back position comes from gallstone surgeries? Hum, interesting.
The second most used birthing position is semi-sitting which accounts for 35% of vaginal births . This is the typical position you see a mother in when you watch movies or TV series with a birth scene in it. The mother lies on her sacrum with the bed tilted in a 30-40 degree angle, legs pulled to either side. This position is also called the C-position as the body is resting on the tailbone and the birthing mother is curled into the shape of a C, “around her baby” . My husband Randall Winter calls it the “dying turtle” position, and he is an advance practitioner and Instructor of Ortho-Bionomy.
Those two positions are actually the hardest and most illogical positions. Here is why:
- More work against gravity: First and foremost, the birth path (vagina) is shaped like a slanted ‘J’ and so is the end of the spine (tailbone) right behind it. This means that the baby to come out needs to work against gravity and the mother needs to push the baby UP the bottom loop of the ‘J’ and tailbone to birth the child. Not easy!
- Restriction of the pelvic opening: With the legs up in the air and the back against a hard surface, the pelvic outlet is reduced by 30% forcing the woman to use extra force (holding her breath) and put direct pressure on her sacrum (tailbone). Two of my client broke their tailbone while giving birth. The tailbone is forced to flex up and inward, taking it into a curved position that restricts the diameter of the pelvic outlet. This can inhibit the baby’s movement through the maternal pelvis. When the position allows it (Hands-and-knee or squatting or semi-squatting in the water -or not), the tailbone actually curves outward and you (as the birth attendant) can see a “bump” in the mother’s low back. This opens the pelvic outlet generously and the baby often slides out with no or little effort.
- Excessive pressure on hips and ligaments: In either positions, 2 people often of different build and stature are holding the mother’s legs up (i.e. the husband on one side and the doula or a nurse on the other). It is easy to apply too much pressure on the woman’s legs causing excessive hip abduction and external rotation which can further distract the joint and force the sides of the pelvis apart. According to Snow et al. , it can lead to excruciating postpartum pain as well as prolonged supra-pubic pain for the mother and lasting complications after birth such as difficulty walking severe enough to require the use of crutches or a wheelchair, or more rarely, bladder dysfunction .
- Restriction of maternal movement: Both positions also restricts a woman from moving freely (you think?) and puts greater pressure on the perineum, all of which can lead to other unnecessary interventions or complications like tearing, episiotomy, forceps delivery, or vacuum extraction [4,5,6]
- Detrimental to your baby’s health: Both positions but especially the lithotomy position can compress major blood vessels which interferes with circulation and lowers maternal blood pressure. This can then lower fetal transcutaneous oxygen saturation (the baby’s oxygen levels) by as much as 91%.  Further, this position can decrease fetal heart rate during labor and contribute to other forms of fetal distress, including cord compression, which may lead to continuous or internal fetal monitoring, increased risk of shoulder dystocia/problems with fetal presentation or a prolonged pushing phase, all of which puts extra stress on the baby as he transitions to life outside the womb.
The convenience factor for the doctor is undeniable. There is easy and quick access to the birthing woman, but at what cost? So many detrimental effects to the woman birthing have been documented [2,3, 5] and the baby’s healthy outcome [7,8].
There is an abundance of research demonstrating that birthing in a non-supine position can lead to lower levels of back pain, lower level of pain during pushing and fewer perineal tears, which also reduces the need for suturing or surgical repair of the pelvic floor .
I thought it was interesting that the type of caregiver was also statistically significant in the use of episiotomy and the amount of perineal tearing. Meaning, obstetricians had 26% episiotomy, 5 times higher than the midwives in the same hospital, and 42.1% tearing needing repair (5-7% more than the midwives) . One explanation could be that midwives are more patient and let the mother move and breathe as she pleases during the pushing stage rather than direct the woman to hold her breath and push hard for long streaks of time.
Please comment and share your story about lying on your back when giving birth. How was it for you? How long did you push? Did you tear or have an episiotomy? Other post-partum “inconveniences” from perineum damage or trauma?
Part 2: Alternative (Non-Supine) Positions for Birth
1. Declercq ER, Sakala C, Corry MP, Applebaum S. Listening to Mothers II: Report of the Second National U.S. Survey of Women’s Childbearing Experiences. New York: Childbirth Connection, October 2006. Available at: www.childbirthconnection.org/listeningtomothers/
2. Shorten, A., Donsante, J. and Shorten, B. (2002), Birth Position, Accoucheur, and Perineal Outcomes: Informing Women About Choices for Vaginal Birth. Birth, 29: 18-27.
3. Snow, R., Neubert, A. Peripartum Pubic Symphysis Separation: A Case Series and Review of the Literature. Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey: July 1997 – Volume 52 – Issue 7 – pp 438-444
4. Roberts CL, Algert CS, Cameron CA, & Torvaldsen S. 2005. A meta-analysis of upright positions in the second stage to reduce instrumental deliveries in women with epidural analgesia. Acta obstetricia et gynecologica Scandinavica. 84(8):794-8. Back.
5. De Jonge A, Teunissen TA, & Lagro-Janssen AL. 2004. 2004. Supine position compared to other positions during the second stage of labor: a meta-analytic review. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology. 25(1):35-45.Back.
6. Nasir A, Korejo R, Noorani KJ. 2007. Child birth in squatting position. Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association. 57(1):19-22.
7. Humphrey et al “The influence of maternal posture at birth on the fetus” J Obstet Gynecol Br Commonwealth 80:1075, 1973
8. Harry Oxorn, MD Human Labor and Birth (University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada,McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing) 1986
9. Gardosi, J., Sylvester, S. and B-Lynch, C. (1989), Alternative positions in the second stage of labour: a randomized controlled trial. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 96: 1290-1296.
Part 3: Emotions we feel affect our physiology and other people’s physiology!
When you add feelings to your imagined reality, you can actually change your physiology and your physical response. Don’t believe me? Try this: remember you last great vacation, really picture yourself there at a moment when you felt really good, safe and comfortable. Loved and appreciated. Maybe warm (like on a beach), with a cool refreshing drink in your hand. Most likely, your blood pressure and heart beat went down a few points! Just by imagining and feeling in a certain place, IN YOUR MIND!
How does it make you feel to actually relax in a safe wonderful place? Indoors? Outdoors? Does a place in nature feel safe to you? Everyone is different, you don’t have to aggree with my version of “Safe Place”. Make your own! How does it feel to imagine giving birth to your child (at the right time and the right place) exactly the way you want, with the people you want, the lightning, the temperature, being in the water or on a soft carpet of fresh moss?
What you feel, your baby feels. Ok, that’s not new. But what you feel affects your baby even after he is born and even if he is in an other room! Incredible? Absolutely! And true. Now that deserves and explanation, right? To understand better, watch the video below where Gregg Braden explains how our emotions affect our reality and physiology even at a distance!
Gregg Braden explains how science shows evidence of the power of emotions.
Now that’s the true power of visualization! Why would it be any different at the time of birth? Think about it!
Let me know if you need more help with that. We can do a skype or phone session to get you started!
You may also like:
Part 1: What is “visualization” exactly?
part 2: Our imagination is limitless
Part 2: Our Imagination is limitless
When you start practicing your visualization exercise, you may discover that you are not bound by the laws of medicine, science or, what I call “the laws of the clan” – what you do in your family or because of your culture or beliefs (the clan). None of those rules apply when you are in the unlimited world of all potential. Your imagination is truly limitless… if you allow it to be! You can expand your vision of what is the “norm” or even what is “expected” of you to what ever gives you comfort and bliss. What makes you smile and shine.
There is a “condition” though for this technique to work well for you: you have to be able to believe that it is possible and that you deserve it. The more you can become convinced that it is your birth, and your bliss and that you, and your baby deserve it, the more you can truly feel the emotion of joy, awe and fulfillment the more you increase your chances to live it exactly so! What do you have to lose, really?
Monique was expecting her first child, a girl! She started with me because of her fear of the unknown, like most first time mother. She was very good at practicing with her hypnosis recorded programs and her husband was very supportive too. Her labor was only 5-6 hours and she didn’t even get an I.V. On this picture (that her husband took just a few minutes after their baby was born), Monique’s face says it all: pure bliss! It was 5 0r 6 AM if I remember correctly. I was honored to be part of this extraordinary journey as their hypno-expert and as their doula.
YOU TOO, you can have the birth you want and give your child the best start in life with minimum trauma and maximum comfort!
If you missed it, here is the link to Part 1: What is “visualization” exactly?
- Part 1: What is “visualization” exactly?
You may have heard (even perhaps A LOT) of using visualization in preparing for the birth of your child. Yet in modern society “visualizing” is often misunderstood. I hear many clients say: ” Oh, I can’t see images in my mind”, or “I can’t see colors”… Well, the word visualizing is somewhat too restrictive, I prefer to use “imagine”. For example: can you imagine a red tomato right now, there behind your closed eyes? I am sure some of you actually have a clear colored picture of a tomato in their minds but many don’t. Most people have a precise “knowing” of what a tomato looks like and they are able to describe it in much detail! They can even experience smelling the tomato, feeling its weight and shape in their hand, and noticing the juices run down their throat as they take a bite off of it! I call THAT visualizing and it has the same effect on you! In fact, the more feelings you can bring to your “visualization” exercise the more powerful it is! Your brain and all the bodily function do not know the difference between experiencing it for real or “just” in your imagination.
Doubtful? Let me ask you this: did you notice any physiological response to just reading the description of the experience with the tomato described above? If you don’t remember, go back and read it again and watch what happens in your mouth? Even if you happen to really dislike tomatoes you had a reaction to the DESCRIPTION of the experience, didn’t you?
So when you decide to practice visualizing the birth of your child in ideal circumstances, the value of repetition is that you increase your level of sensation and feelings to the point that your mind and body cannot make the difference between that imagined birth and your reality. That is when the power of believing creates your reality exactly the way you have “imagined” it!
Stay with us for more info.